2025 Kia Carnival MPV Hybrid Brings Unplugged PHEV Power

The motor in the new hybrid was designed for plug-in hybrids, but the new Carnival is gas-only.

The three-row 2025 Kia Carnival, seen from the side, can be outfitted with seven or eight seats. (Sebastian Blanco)

The 2025 Kia Carnival MPV is acquiring a hybrid powertrain as part of the minivan’s model year update that debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. The internal-combustion engine option remains the 3.5-L V6 GDI seen in the current Carnival and produces 287 hp and 260 lb-ft (353 Nm) that powers the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. Engine power is down slightly from the output of the V6 in the 2024 model (290 hp and 262 lb-ft [355 Nm]).

The 2025 Kia Carnival during its debut at the 2024 Chicago Auto Show. (Sebastian Blanco)
The 2025 Kia Carnival. (Sebastian Blanco)

It’s the addition of an electric motor to the new hybrid model where things get interesting. The hybrid Carnival uses a 1.6-L turbocharged 4-cyl. and a 54 kW motor that produce a combined 242 hp and 271 lb-ft (367 Nm). The Carnival Hybrid MPV uses a 6-speed automatic transmission. Improved fuel economy is one reason for the new hybrid option. While Kia doesn’t yet have official EPA estimates, a spokesperson told SAE Media that the target is 32 mpg combined. The current ICE-only Carnival gets 22 mpg.

The revised 7- or 8-passenger Carnival receives additional benefits from the hybrid system. Using a unique 54-kW electric motor that was initially developed for plug-in hybrid powertrains using the same platform — such as the Sorento PHEV — the motor is used not just to enhance acceleration at lower speeds but also for some of the Carnival’s chassis-control functions. “E-Handling” uses the electric motor braking power to improve cornering agility and stability. E-Evasive Handling Assist helps control load movement on the front and rear wheels during emergency steering for better evasion performance. Finally, E-Ride improves ride comfort by automatically adjusting damping as the vehicle goes over bumps.

“It’s all because you have an electric motor,” the Kia spokesperson said. “It’s able to apply the capabilities of electric motor differently. If you’re going over a speed bump with the front wheels, it can use electric braking to slow the front wheels. It can also use the drive motor to accelerate when the rear wheels are going over the bump. This way, overall ride comfort is smoothed.”

For 2025, the Kia Carnival gets a new hybrid powertrain using an electric motor originally designed for PHEV models. (Sebastian Blanco)

The new Carnival MPV will come with standard Forward Collision Avoidance (FCA) Assist as well as available options that build off of the FCA technology, such as Junction Crossing (FCA-JC), Lane-change Oncoming (FCA-LO), Lane-change Side (FCA-LS); and Evasive Steering Assist (FCA-ESA). The updated minivan will also come with Kia’s Highway Driving Assist 2, a navigation-based smart cruise control and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA).

Inside, the 2025 Carnival uses a clean, horizontal design aesthetic to keep information readily available. (Kia)

The Carnival hybrid also gets exclusive aerodynamic 17-inch (432-mm) wheels and offers three levels of regenerative braking controlled by a paddle-shift lever. The 2025 Kia Carnival is expected to go on sale in the middle of this summer.